Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 32

I smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “He's invading our territory. And he doesn't smell like a real nice person, either. Just try to act normal.”

He shook his head. “This is crazy.”

“How you doing, Sheriff Marks?” I called out nicely.

“Not so good, Ms. Norville. I've got a problem.”

My stomach turned over. Why was the first thought that popped into my head, What has Cormac done?

“Sorry to hear that. Can I help?”

“I hope so.” He stopped at the base of the porch and took a good, slow look at Ben. I could almost see his little mind ticking off the points on a formal police description: hair, height, build, race, and general suspiciousness. Ben crossed his arms and stared back. Finally Marks said, “Who's this?”

“This is Ben. He's a friend.”

Marks smirked. “Another one? How many friends you shacking up with out here?”

Right, now I wanted to growl at him. “You said there was something 1 could help you with?”

Marks jerked his thumb over his shoulder to point at the car. “You mind taking a little ride with me?”

I did mind. I minded a lot. “Why? I'm not being arrested—”

“Oh, no,” Marks said. “Not yet.”

“How about I follow you in my car?” I said, admiring how steady my voice sounded. Something was very wrong. It was Cormac. It had to be Cormac. I wasn't going to say the name until Marks did, though.

But Marks was staring hard at me. Like it was me he was after. He had no idea what his glare was doing to Wolf. I had to look away. That fight or flight thing was kicking at me.

“I don't know. I'd hate for you to run off,” Marks said.

What in God's name had happened? “I'm not going to run off. All my stuff is here. And why are you worried about me running off?”

“You'll see. Let's get going. Take your car, but I'm keeping an eye on you.”

“Of course.” I went to find my keys and backpack.

“Can I come with you?” Ben said.

I relaxed a little. It would be good to have a friend at my back. “Sure. You're my lawyer. I

have this creepy feeling I might need my lawyer.”

I drove behind Marks's car as close as I could without actually tailgating, so that 1 wouldn't give him the slightest idea that I was “running off.” I watched him through his rear window as he checked his rearview mirror every five seconds.

Ben frowned. “It's a werewolf thing. Something happened, and he thinks a werewolf did it.”

“Yeah. Maybe he's just trying to get back at me for all those times I called him about the dead rabbits. Maybe this is some practical joke. I'll end up on the first werewolf reality TV show. Wouldn't that be a hoot?” I muttered.

After a few miles we turned off the highway onto a wide dirt road, then after several more miles made another turn onto a narrow dirt road, then onto a driveway. A carved wood sign posted in front of a barbed-wire fence announced the Baker Ranch. A quarter of a mile along, Marks pulled off onto the verge behind a pickup truck, and 1 pulled in behind him. Dry, yellowed grass cracked under the tires.

An older man wearing a denim jacket, jeans, and cowboy boots leaned against a weathered fence post. Marks went to him, and they shook hands. The man looked over at us, still in the car. I expected to see the determined suspicion in him that 1 saw on Marks's face. But he looked at us with curiosity.

I got out of the car and went to join them. Ben followed.

Marks made introductions. “Ms. Norville, this is Chad Baker. Chad, Kitty Norville.”

“Miss Norville.” Baker offered his hand, and we shook.

“Call me Kitty. This is Ben O'Farrell.” More handshaking all around. I looked at Marks and waited for him to tell me why we were all here.

“Why don't we all go take a look at the problem, shall we?” Marks said, smiling, and gestured across the field on the other side of the fence.

Baker slipped a loop of wire off the top of the nearest fence post, pulling back the top strand of barbed wire. The tension made it coil back on itself. We could all climb over the bottom part of the fence without too much effort.

We walked across the field, up a rise that overlooked a depression that was hidden from the road. Marks and Baker stood aside and let us look.

Six dead cows lay sprawled before me.

They weren't just dead. They'd been gutted, torn to pieces, throats ripped out, guts spilled, tongues lolling. The grass and dirt around them had turned to sticky mud, so much blood had poured out of them. They hadn't even had time to ran, it looked like. They'd all dropped where they stood. The air smelled of rotten meat, of blood and waste.

One werewolf couldn't have done this. It would have taken a whole pack.

Or something lurking in the dark, gazing out with red eyes.

“You want to tell me what happened here?” Marks said in a tone that suggested he already knew exactly what had happened.

I swallowed. What could I say? What did he want me to say? “Ah… it looks like some cows were killed.”

“Massacred, more like,” Marks said. Chad Baker's expression didn't change. I assumed they were his cows. He was taking this very calmly.

“What do you want me to tell you, Sheriff? What do you think 1 know?” 1 spoke softly, unable to muster any more righteous sarcasm.

“I think you know exactly what I think.”

“What, you think I can read minds?” I was just being cagey. He was right, I knew: I was Kitty, the famous werewolf, who moved into his jurisdiction and then this happened. 1 told him, “You think I did this.”

“Well?” he said.

“I assure you, I'm not in any way, shape, or form capable of this. No single wolf, lycanthropic or otherwise, is capable of this.”

“That's what I told him,” Baker said, flickering a smile. My heart instantly went out to him.

“Thank you,” I said. “I don't think I could bring down one cow on my own, much less a whole herd.”

“Something did this,” Marks said unhelpfully.

“We couldn't find any prints,” Baker said. “My dogs didn't hear a thing, and they'll set up a racket at the drop of a hat. It's like something dropped on them out of the sky.”

“A werewolf isn't a normal wolf,” Marks said, unable to let it go. “God knows what the hell you're capable of.”